Give two specific examples from "The Tell-Tale Heart" that the author uses to create an atmosphere of horror or suspense. These are sentences that set or enhance the mood of the story.

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The narrator's description of the old man's "vulture eye" and its effect on him certainly helps to create suspense in the story.  He says, "Whenever [the eye] fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees—very gradually—I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever." We do not know precisely why the old man's eye so incenses, so horrifies the narrator, and the narrator's resolution to kill the man as a means to ridding himself of the sight of this eye creates suspense and gives us a clue that there is something very seriously wrong with him.

Further, the narrator's continued insistence that he is, in fact, sane, as well as his description of how sneakily and slowly he moved into the old man's room, heightens the tense mood of the story and increases our suspense. He says, "[...] I resolved to open a little—a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it—you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily—until, at length a simple dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye." He insists that the care he takes during this process proves that he is only suffering from an "over-acuteness of the sense" and that he is not insane. His stealthiness and his certainty certainly increase the story's horror.

Moreover, his description of the sound he believes to be the old man's heart both before he kills him and after he's buried him under the floorboards makes the mood seem very eerie. He says that it sounded like a "watch [...] when enveloped in cotton." However, it is both impossible that he should hear the man's heart from across the room and from beneath his feet after the old man is dead. Therefore, we know that there is really something wrong with this narrator, and this creates suspense and horror as well.

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The Tell-Tale Heart

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